To hold or not to hold a press conference — that is the question.
More than 400 journalists will cover IMTS 2018 ... and more than 2,000 exhibitors will compete for their attention. Holding a press conference can reach many editors at once, a benefit if your CEO or key spokesperson has limited availability. A press conference can also generate significant media coverage, but is it the right thing to do?
Generally, IMTS recommends reserving a press conference for a MAJOR news announcement. Here’s what counts as major:
- An industry first
- A breakthrough technology demonstration; stunning visuals create memorable events
- The launch of a new and significant product or product line
- Anything that will or could dramatically change the future of manufacturing technology
- A nationally- or internationally-famous speaker
If you hold a press conference, be prepared to reveal hard news and key facts.
Product enhancements, product line extensions, small evolutionary technology demonstrations and anything short of a multi-million dollar acquisition probably don’t warrant a press conference. For editors, time is a precious commodity they can ill-afford to waste, so you want to be respectful. If editors walk away from your event feeling like they wasted 30 minutes because you over-promised and under-delivered, regaining their trust could take years.
You should also consider other publicity options (see One-on-One Meetings below) if a different forum will better deliver your message. If you want editors to touch parts, interact with a machine or ask a lot of questions, an in-person meeting might be best. Personal meetings also work better if you don’t have suitable spokespeople. While media training can help many people, it’s good to recognize that brilliant leaders and engineers sometimes make poor public speakers.
If you decide to use the IMTS Media Center to hold a press conference, use the e-Kit (available in 2018) to schedule the conference.
If you hold a press conference at your booth or other location, contact us so that we can add it to the master calendar sent to editors and include it in the daily press conference schedule displayed in the Media Center. Also, by contacting us, we can let you know if there is a conflict that might affect attendance.
To hold a press conference before or after regular show hours, you need clearance. Please notify the show office to make arrangements for early or late access.
A Note about Press Kits
While you can hand out physical press kits at your press conference or at your booth, remember that physical kits are no longer allowed in the Media Center. Please upload all your press materials using the Online Media Center (available in 2018).
IMTS keeps a list of exhibitors that have press kits available. Even if you’re handing out kits at the booth, you want to be sure to upload your press kit. IMTS provides a download service for members of the media who provide us a list of exhibitors whose kits they need. If we don’t have your kit, you are missing out on free publicity!
Tips for a Successful Press Conference
- Schedule your press conference as early as possible before the show; a month or more before the show is not too soon.
- Add your press conference to the master calendar (available in 2018).
- Make the event convenient: hold it at McCormick Place, whether at your booth, in the Media Center or in a conference room.
- If you need to book a room, use the Meeting Room Request Form in your e-Kit (available in 2018).
- Clearly define your messages and key take-aways.
- Identify and vet your speakers and moderator; media train them if necessary.
- Organize and rehearse the presentation.
- Keep it brief — 30 minutes or less.
- Build a press kit that supports the presentation so editors don’t have to write down your every word. The press kit should contain:
- A list of conference speakers, their titles and contact information
- Short bios of the speakers
- Relevant news releases
- Background information on the topic (fact sheets, brochures, case studies, technical articles, videos, etc.)
- Copies of the presentation if a PowerPoint, etc. is used
- High quality images
- Load all press kit materials on a flash drive personalized with your company name. If you must hand out a folder, include the flash drive, your business card and a list of press kit contents and perhaps one key news release.
- Send personalized invitations to editors well in advance. Clearly define the benefits of the press conference to the editor’s readers. Request that editors RSVP.
- If editors don’t respond in a week, follow up.
- Prepare the room or conference area — will you need A/V support? Are there enough seats?
- All food and beverage items for press conferences must be purchased through SAVOR, which has exclusive rights within the facility. Contact SAVOR at 312-791-7250 or see the Catering Order Form (for booth catering orders) in the e-Kit (available in 2018).
- Assign an official person or persons to greet editors.
- Assign another person to confirm conference attendees; obtain their names and organizations at a minimum, and preferably business cards with contact information. Scan their badges. This person can also provide them the press kit.
- Start on time (and no later than five minutes); every editor in attendance has another appointment pending and won’t stick around if you run long.
- Have the moderator welcome everyone and remind them that the press kit contains copies of the presentations, news releases and background materials (don’t review the materials, just remind them).
- The moderator should introduce each speaker, as well as encourage speakers to wrap up if they’re going too long.
A typical press conference ends with the moderator or presenter asking if there are any questions. Do not be surprised if there are only a few. Editors who are interested in a story don’t want to reveal their story angle to competitive magazines. Instead, they will approach you individually after the conference (if they have the time). For this reason, follow up with editors promptly after the show with a courtesy e-mail or phone call. Thank them for their attendance and offer your resources for story development.
If you do not have a major news announcement, you can still generate publicity by meeting one-on-one with editors at your booth. Review their editorial calendars, then discuss how you might be able to contribute to a feature story or secure placement for a news release on a new or recently enhanced product.
When it comes to feature stories, remember that editors often write non-promotional news stories, not a brochure for your company. They will focus on how technologies and product categories benefit end-users and otherwise impact the way they do business. Even though your product might not be mentioned by name, you still gain visibility by having your company mentioned, experts quoted and photography/imagery/videos used. This positions your company as a leader in its category.
Many companies actually prefer personal meetings in place of press conferences because they build strong, long-term relationships based on a mutual understanding of needs. Also, it will enable you to gear the content you provide to a more specific audience, so you may get more mileage from your technical content. For example, you could produce multiple customized stories on additive manufacturing by tailoring the material for a medical industry editor, an aerospace industry editor, etc.
As noted previously, many editors also prefer one-on-one meetings over press conferences. In some cases, a personal meeting enables editors to discuss specific story angles without alerting their competitors. In other cases, the editor can wrap up a story idea in much less time, enabling them to cover more news at the show.
Don’t worry if an editor only spends 10 minutes at your booth. That’s a huge success. At busy show such as IMTS, editors are typically looking for two things: news releases and nuggets of content they can use to generate immediate news, and expert resources they can use to develop stories after the show. You need to think both short- and long-term.